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What Does a Software Developer Do?

By DeVry University

May 13, 2023
10 min read

Software developers use programming and design knowledge to build software that meets the needs of users. Typically, they will meet with a client who has a need for software to be developed, and then will build, test and deploy that software based on the specifications they have received.

Today, software developers are some of the most vital people in many aspects of the economy. Software isn't just codes, video games and apps, it's the driving force of every computerized device on the planet.


In this article, you'll learn about the essential duties that software developers perform and the skills that they may utilize in the field as we answer the following questions:

Types of Software Developers

Most software developers fall into two major groups—applications and systems developers—with each of them performing similar tasks but focusing on a different aspect of development.

Applications Software Developer

Applications software developers, as the name implies, design applications or create databases or programs for use internally or online. Typically specializing in a single area of application development such as mobile phones, they design, create, test, program and update applications or games for use by consumers or specific customers. Their responsibilities include understanding their clients’ requirements and specifications, writing code to develop the application, creating prototypes, testing the app before it’s launched and debugging the app as errors are encountered.

Systems Software Developer

Systems software developers are focused on creating the operating systems for consumers or for a specific organization to use. Operating systems keep computers functioning and can be found in most of the consumer electronics we use today. This includes systems in mobile phones and automobiles. Systems software developers often build the interfaces that allow users to interact with computers.

What Is the Job Description for a Software Developer?

Software developers design, program, build, deploy and maintain software using many different skills and tools. They also help build software systems that power networks and devices and ensure that those systems remain functional. Their job may also involve meeting with clients to determine the needs for a software solution, which will help them design the final product.

Software developers work in a wide variety of industries, and some even work as freelancers. Software is involved across virtually every industry to power the devices and applications used within that field. You can find software developers working in business, technology, defense, healthcare, aerospace and manufacturing.

Depending on the setting, a software developer may work alone or on a team with other developers and programmers. In general, larger companies tend to have teams of developers due to the complexity of the software they are designing.

What are the Job Duties of a Software Developer?

The job duties of a software developer typically include tasks such as overseeing software programming, testing software at various phases of completion, laying out software design, building models or diagrams to communicate the end goal and mapping out future software upgrades.

Software developers are usually further along in their career than software programmers, and depending on the company, work somewhere between management and execution. They are less likely to be involved in the actual day-to-day programming of the software, especially at larger companies, but they do review code for errors and find places where it could be improved. Usually, they begin their career as a software programmer and rise to the level of a developer.

Once a piece of software has been deployed, the job of a developer is still not finished. At this point, they will continue to monitor for bugs and issues that are uncovered by users. If a bug is found, they work with a smaller team of programmers to correct the issues and release software updates that resolve the problems. They will also release updates that change the design and functionality of the software in the event that its User Interface (UI) becomes dated or the objective of the software changes.

What Skills Do Software Developers Need?

Software developers utilize a wide range of skills that enable them to oversee a team and get directly involved in the application programming and computer systems design process. The skills a software developer may need include technical computer science skills used in programming and soft skills that help maintain productivity and professionalism:

Technical Skills for Software Developers

The software developer’s toolbox should include a medley of technical skills in programming, testing, debugging and database systems. These skills are acquired and nurtured through degree programs, certification courses and hands-on experience:

  • Linux

    Linux is an open-source operating system (OS) that is highly customizable and contains several tools that are useful for programmers, such as sed, awk piping and grep. The OS is also more secure than most, making it useful for improving the cyber security of software.

  • Software engineering

    Software engineering refers to the entire process of building a piece of software. Having software engineering skills means that you are capable of designing software that accomplishes a specific goal using programming and analytical skills.

  • Development operations (DevOps)

    DevOps involves several practices that blend together information technology (IT) and software development skills. It involves careful management of resources with the goal of delivering functional software quickly and affordably.

  • Programming languages

    Software developers need to have a grasp of programming languages. Which particular languages they need to know depends on the industry they work in and the software they develop. Some common programming languages include Python, Java, C#, SQL and HTML.

  • Data structures and algorithms

    A thorough knowledge of data structures and algorithms enables developers to write efficient code. Data structures are methods of organizing data, such as sequences of numbers or data tables. Algorithms are sequences of steps that a computer takes to transform the data into functionality for the user, as in searching or sorting. Frequently used data structures in programming languages include linked lists, stacks and queues, sets, maps and search trees.

Soft Skills for Software Developers

While technical skills, or hard skills, are essential for software developers, it’s important to hone your soft skills as well. Here are a few that you may find particularly helpful as you pursue various roles in this field:

  • Problem-solving capabilities

    Most software is designed to provide a solution to a problem. Software developers must be able to identify the issue that a piece of software aims to remedy and build software that solves the problem. They also need these capabilities to address any issues that come up during the development process or to work out bugs.

  • Communication skills

    Developers may manage a team of programmers, which means they need to be able to clearly communicate expectations and talk through solutions. Additionally, they may be responsible for providing detailed reports on the development process to executives who likely do not have a technology background.

  • Analytical thinking

    When building software, a developer constantly analyzes the state of the software and its code. As they do this, they need to determine whether the software is likely to achieve its goal. Analysis may also be needed during the design process to conceptualize something that solves the unique challenges facing their client or the end users.

  • Patience

    Practicing patience can be an important soft skill for software developers because the development process can be lengthy and, at times, quite complex. Patience can help you keep your motivation going strong amid setbacks or an evolving scope of work. Patience is also an essential tool for developing and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships, especially in potentially trying situations such as working against deadlines or getting a new hire up to speed in the middle of a project.

  • Emotional intelligence

    When unforeseen circumstances threaten to derail your progress or distract you from achieving organizational goals, emotional intelligence helps you remain calm and focused. A high degree of emotional intelligence, when used effectively, can help defuse emotionally charged situations, find points of commonality, compromise with your teammates or enable you to communicate better as you try to understand the challenges your peers might be facing. In fact, companies seek out managers with high levels of empathy and emotional control, as they are often more likely to inspire employee loyalty and trust.

Software Developer Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that software developers, software quality assurance analysts and testers are likely to see new job opportunities created in the coming years due to the increasing number of products—including consumer electronics, IoT-connected devices and electric vehicles—that use software.

The BLS projects overall employment of software developers to grow 25% on a national level between  2021 and 20311, a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations. 

How to Become a Software Developer

If you want to prepare to pursue a career as a software developer, there’s no time like the present to begin planning your career journey.

While there’s no singular route to becoming a software developer, there are a few things you can do to help get yourself started:  

1. Determine Your Career Path

Choosing a career path can be difficult, but an important thing to remember is that each journey begins with a single step. There are many positions you can pursue within this broad industry, which gives you a great opportunity to find your own niche. Aspiring developers who’ve earned our online Undergraduate Certificate in Software Design and Solutions may consider such careers as:

  • Software application developer

  • Software programmer and analyst

  • Mobile device programmer

  • Mobile app developer

Graduates of our online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development may consider such careers as

  • Software application developer

  • Web program analyst

  • Software systems developer

  • Mobile device software developer

  • Software developer for web portals and e-commerce apps

  • Software game developer

  • Data analyst

2. Pursue a Degree or Certificate

The next step in your journey will be to earn a degree or certificate in software development. At DeVry, we offer online and hybrid-format certificate and degree programs using our tech-infused, experiential learning approach to help you prepare to pursue a career as a software developer and take on the challenges of the modern workplace.

Don’t want to wait to show a credential on your resume? Some of our programs are designed to stack into the next level. For example, every credit you earn in our Online Undergraduate Certificate in Software Design and Solutions can be applied toward our Computer Information Systems bachelor’s degree with a specialization in Software Programming, or our bachelor’s degree in Software Development with a specialization in Software Design and Programming.2  This means you can pursue your certificate now, and apply your applicable credits towards one of our related bachelor’s programs when you’re ready to take the next step. 

3. Earn Professional Certifications

As you complete your education and prepare to pursue jobs in software development, consider earning industry-recognized certifications to help verify your skills. Ranging from entry-level and intermediate to advanced (which may require considerable work experience), certifications can help give you more of a competitive advantage over other job candidates or help position you to advance within your current organization. A partial list of software developer certifications includes:

4. Apply for Software Developer Jobs

The final step in this journey is to begin applying for software developer jobs. Before submitting your first application, take the time to develop tools—like a compelling resume and a strong LinkedIn profile—that will help share your story with potential employers. If you’ve developed a website or app that can show off your capabilities, consider including it in an online portfolio.

Job listings for software developers can be found on employment websites and industry job boards. When submitting your applications, keep in mind that your resume and cover letters are likely to get screened by an Applicant Tracking System before going to a hiring manager or recruiter, so be sure to use keywords that are based on the employer’s job description in both your resume and your letter.

If you are a student or member of our DeVry University Alumni Association, our Career Services team can help you identify and pursue career goals, understand the essentials of a job search and develop your personal brand, along with a variety of other benefits including:

  • Career exploration

  • Interview coaching and one-to-one career coaching

  • Networking tips

  • Resume writing

  • Job search strategies

  • Virtual employer events

Prepare to Pursue a Career as a Software Developer

If you want to make your mark in software development, we can help. At DeVry, our career-focused curriculum helps you build skills needed for today’s Internet of Things (IoT) economy with hands-on learning taught by faculty with real-world experience. 

Our online Undergraduate Certificate in Software Design and Solutions teaches basic data analytic skills, management and organizational skills and helps you understand software design patterns.

In our online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development you can gain a solid foundation of knowledge in operating systems, programming, hardware and connectivity and explore the professional, ethical, security and social responsibilities related to software systems. Focus on the area of development that interests you by choosing one of 3 degree specializations: Software Design and ProgrammingBig Data and Analytics or Web and Mobile Application Development.

Let’s talk about your career goals and how we can help you get started in our next session. Classes start every 8 weeks.

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location.

2At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.

8-Week Class Sessions

Classes Start Every 8 Weeks

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